Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE – IDES WATCH MY BACK IF I WERE YOU!




I spent yesterday, 15th March, from sun-up until midnight, walking backwards.
To my surprise, and relief, not once did I stumble, nor did I fall over.  Miracles do happen!  In the meantime, I did cause a few bemused spectators to wonder if I was coming or going. 

The confused observers were obviously oblivious to the fact that yesterday, 15th March, was The Ides of March, the day/date in 44BC Big Julie aka Julius Caesar got stabbed in the back. 

A seer had warned Big Julie an assassination attempt was in the wind, but Caesar just blew off the seer’s prophecy.  The seer told Julius Caesar – “Julie!  Don’t go! Don’t go, Big Julie!’  But Big Julie believed he was too big a deal to heed a mere seer.

The attack by Brutus at a meeting of the senate was a brutal thing to do.  The political arena even back in 44BC was a dangerous place to hang about in. 

Who’d want to be a politician? Not me, not without a worthy amount of armour plate, anyway; either that or I’d ensure I was a backbencher, right up in the back row, with my back against the wall, allowing no room for anyone to be behind me! 

Trust no one...the brutes!

So that was yesterday, done, dusted, out of the way.  Whew! And, I’m still here to tell the story sans knife in my back! 

Today is today.

With some forward thinking while backward walking I managed to get through The Ides of March unscathed.

Tomorrow is tomorrow so I’m now readying myself for tomorrow -  St. Patrick’s Day. 

Actually, for months I’ve been preparing myself for Paddy’s arrival.  I didn’t allow the Ides, or anything else to get in my way. For hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month I’ve been practising my Riverdance steps. 

Although, yesterday, trying to execute complex foot actions with my arms stationary at my sides all the while being in backward mode was a bit awkward. There were moments, more than a few moments I resembled Kath, Kel and Sharon Karen Trzelecki’s performances (all wrapped up in one) in that memorable episode of the satirical Aussie TV comedy, “Kath & Kim”. 

Kath, Kel, Kim, Brett and Sharon caused much laughter when they entered our homes via our television screens from 2002 to 2005.  Aussie fans of the show will remember the “Riverdance” episode, I’m sure....how could you not?

Because of the myriad offers I received I was forced to flatly decline a most generous one from Michael Flatley to join his world-acclaimed troupe of dancers.

I’ve written much about St. Patrick, aka Paddy or Pat to his mates, over the years.  I guess there’s little else I can say about the dear old chap, except he didn’t actually drive snakes out of Ireland. 

Ireland never had any snakes before or after Paddy adorned in his cassock went charging through causing havoc while, below foot, treading on the shamrock. 

In the meanwhile, the flow of the Druids driven out to sea by Paddy was most fluid. 

Ever since Patrick’s death on 17th March, 461AD (appropriately, he was interred at “Downpatrick”) people all over go in search of a four leaf clover to bring them good fortune.

If you see me out and about tomorrow foraging on the grassy verges or in your garden ignore me.  Be on alert - here is a chance you may not notice me because I’ll be dressed in green. 

If you see a large clump of grass moving around while you’re mowing dodge it – it could be me. I’d like to keep all my limbs intact, in fact. 

The wearing of the green came into vogue long after St. Patrick had his day. However, the Irish brogue existed before brazen Paddy did his best to rid the country of its pagans.

St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were mostly influenced by the dispersion of the Irish to lands other than their homeland; the Irish diaspora who settled in the US, especially, kick-booted the sometimes boisterous celebration into gear. 

St. Patrick’s Day at the resort on Hinchinbrook Island was a hoot.  My barman made sure all the drinks ordered had drops of green food colouring added to them, much to the delight of our good-humoured holiday-making guests.

At lunch time a little boy was jumping for joy when he was served his lunch; that was until he tried what he thought was a huge blob of green ice cream on his plate.  When he discovered it was green mashed potatoes, his face took on a completely different appearance as he let out a very disappointed and loud, “Yuck!  I thought this was ice cream!” 

The young lad's reaction caused much laughter among the rest of the diners and my staff.

The following morning, Bronnie, one of my staff members came into my office, a very concerned look on her face.  In hushed tones, she told me she feared there was a virus of some sort going through the resort.  She believed there was a problem - bacteria of some sort - in the resort’s water supply. 

From her tone, I could’ve sworn everyone on the island was about to die or, at least, end up in hospital for weeks.  I broke into uncontrollable laughter, much to Bronnie's surprise.  There she was serious and very concerned, and all I could do was laugh.

The abundance of green food colouring used the day before in celebration of St. Paddy’s Day had caused a massive alteration in the colour of one’s bodily waste matter...if you know what I mean.  I’ve often wondered what the guests thought when they discovered the surprise that awaited them that morning. 

No one, other than Bronnie made mention to me of the rapidly contagious “disease” that had taken over the resort!  I would have immediately put them at ease that the black plague wasn't rampantly spreading!

In the early part of last century my paternal grandparents, shortly after marrying, came to Australia...all the way from County Armagh, Northern Ireland.   

My maternal forefathers and foremothers (how many can one person have?) were mostly Scottish, and Presbyterian; and when we were children my now late brother and I attended the Presbyterian Sunday School and Church...in days long gone by in the distant haze!

My paternal grandfather was Catholic; my paternal grandmother was not, but she jumped over to the green side to keep the peace.   

They settled in Rockhampton, Central Queeensland – and the rest is history... just like St. Patrick, Big Julie and Brutus, the brute!

Caesar Salad: Dressing: Place 4 whole anchovy fillets in processor/blender; add 2-3tbs Dijon mustard, 1tbs balsamic or red wine vinegar, 1tsp Worcestershire sauce, 2 garlic cloves and juice of half lemon; pulse on low for a few seconds. With processor/blender on, slowly drizzle in 1/2c x-virgin olive oil.  Add 1/4c freshly grated Parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste; pulse until thoroughly combined; chill for a few hours before using it on the salad. Make croutons: Slice ½ loaf of crusty French bread into thick slices; then cut into 1-inch cubes. Place on baking sheet; Heat 1/4c olive oil in small pan over low heat; crush – don’t chop – 2 garlic cloves; add to oil; move the garlic around in pan for 3-5mins; remove garlic from the pan. Slowly drizzle the garlic-infused oil over the croutons; mix together with your hand; sprinkle lightly with salt; toss; then cook in pan until golden and crisp. (Add a little butter to enhance the flavour, if you like).  Salad: Wash and dry the hearts of 2 or 3 romaine/cos lettuce. Leave the hearts whole. Place in salad bowl. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the top of the hearts. Use vegetable peeler and shave off large thin slices of a block of Parmesan cheese; add a good handful of the shavings to the lettuce; give it a good toss; add more dressing and Parmesan to taste. For a variation on a theme...you can top the salad with 2 grilled chicken breast fillets, cut into 1cm thick slices and 4 cooked, crisp, rind-less bacon rashers cut into strips to the salad along with 4 soft, poached eggs gently sitting atop – with some Parmesan scattered over the lot – the choice is yours..Caesar won’t mind!

Colcannon-Bacon Bites with Caper Aioli: Aioli - Whiz 2 egg yolks, 2tbs lemon juice and 1/4tsp salt in processor. With motor running, slowly add 1c sunflower oil until thick and smooth; add 1tsp Dijon, 2tbs sour cream, 1tsp white wine vinegar, 1c flat-leaf parsley leaves and rinsed, drained, finely-chopped salted capers; whiz to combine; season. Transfer to bowl; chill. Boil 1kg starchy potatoes until tender; drain well. Heat olive oil in pan over med-high heat; cook 250g chopped, rind-less bacon until crisp; drain. Blanch 100g trimmed cabbage (or kale); drain; finely chop. Mash potatoes over low heat; add 20g butter and 1/4c cream; mash; add bacon and cabbage/kale; season; remove from heat. Roll mixture into 24 patties. Combine 3c fresh sourdough breadcrumbs, 1c finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and finely grated zest of 1 lemon; season.  Whisk together 2 eggs and 2tbs milk; coat patties with egg wash; then with breadcrumbs. Heat 1cm olive oil in pan over med-high heat; shallow fry patties until golden and crisp; serve with aioli.

Spud Murphy Muffins: Oil-spray muffin pan. Stir together 3 packed cups left-over mashed spuds, 1 large egg, 3/4c shredded cheddar, 2tbs chopped chives, salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly into muffin pan, packing mashed spuds down into each cup. Bake in 190C oven 30-35mins; remove from oven; top each muffin with more shredded cheese; return to oven for 3-4mins; cool in pan 5mins; transfer to serving plate; eat! 


Paddy’s Lucky Slices: Preheat oven to 175C. Mix together 1-1/2c chocolate wafer biscuit crumbs (about 30 wafers) and 1/3c melted butter.  Press firmly onto bottom of foil-lined 9-inch square baking pan. Chill until ready to use.  In a large bowl, beat together on med-speed, 240g softened cream cheese and 1c sugar until well blended.  Add 1/2c sour cream and 1tspn pure peppermint extract; mix well.  Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition...just until blended.  Pour half of the batter over crust.  Tint remaining batter green with food colouring.  Pour over batter in pan.  Bake 25-30mins or until centre is almost set.  Cool completely on wire rack.  Chill 4 hours or overnight. Lift out of pan; cut into bars.  Drizzle bars with melted chocolate.


Shimmy-Shimmy Shamrock Shake: Blend together until thick and smooth, 3-4 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1/2c Bailey’s Irish Cream, 4 ice cubes, 2tbs vanilla vodka, 1tbs Kahlua, 1/2c milk, mint extract to taste and 5 drops green food colouring ; if shake is too thin, add more ice cream; pour into glasses; top with whipped cream. 



Saturday, March 11, 2017

GETTING PICKLED...AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK!
















Soon it will be that way if we don’t get rain - rain that lasts more than just a few minutes.  Summer here on the hill has been quite dry.  The “wet season” didn’t wet us this season, which was very unfortunate because the few little drops we received whetted my appetite for more.

If this keeps up I’ll be forced to drink my stock of wine I’ve got stored away. I might just have to get pickled.  

It’ll be either that or use the liquid contents for pickling because I’m sure some of them, by now, have turned to vinegar. That’s good and not so good, depending on which way you choose to look at it.  I might seriously consider the latter option because hangovers are a waste of time, and are not at all enjoyable.  I prefer leftovers, instead.

There would be no point pretending I’m Cleopatra and bathe in red wine (rather than milk).  Firstly, I don’t have a bathtub here in the cabin, only a shower recess. Secondly, if I bathed in red wine I’d emerge from the non-existent bathtub looking like pickled beetroot!

The bathing in milk has reminded me of an incident that occurred years ago – in the early Seventies. At the time I lived in Toowong, a Brisbane suburb.  I was living alone…nothing much new about that.  I did have my two furry mates with me – nothing new about that, either. My ginger beauty and Lord of the Manor, Sasha, and my blue-steel stunner, Smocka were my housemates.

One Saturday afternoon I decided I’d give myself a cleansing face mask. I think it probably is the only one I’ve ever given myself.  Some probably would be tempted to suggest I should always wear a mask, but that’s their opinion; one I choose to ignore!

Not one to use face creams or lotions, I’ve always relied upon the benefits of drinking lots of water; and ever since I was a child I’ve continued the practice of splashing my face with cold water after I’ve finished showering. A piece of sage advice handed down to me by my grandmother and my mother.

I’d found an interesting mask recipe in a magazine. On the Saturday afternoon to which I refer, having nothing better (or more productive) to do, I decided to spend a couple of hours “spoiling” myself.

Using full cream powdered milk and a dash of olive oil, I followed the instructions given in the article, and mixed the two ingredients together to form a paste.

Once I spread the concoction over my face, the mask quickly set solid like concrete.

Not to be deterred, I followed the instructions to the letter, leaving the mask on for the allotted time, even though I couldn’t move even the tiniest muscle in my face.

Finally, the moment arrived to remove the powdered milk mask – it was time for the long-awaited unveiling.

It has been said often – “Curiosity killed the cat”.  Well, curiosity didn’t kill Sasha that afternoon, but he certainly did succumb to its unignorable power.

Much to his delight and interest, Sasha decided to join me. He perched himself on the side of the bathroom sink.  Never before had he seen such a sight.  It was one too good to miss!

Unexpectedly, to my surprise, Sasha then proceeded to try to lick and chew the mask off my face!

Much to his dismay and disappointment I shoo’ed him away. I was having enough trouble trying to remove the immovable, glued-on-forever mask without his keen interference.  

I never did try a face mask of any description ever again.***  

It hadn’t made any difference to my appearance. Sasha had a fun time, though!

*** A fib has been told.  One Halloween when we were living at Sunshine Beach in the early to mid 80s, my ex and I were invited to a Halloween Party being hosted by good friends who lived in Tewantin.  Through a fancy-dress costume outlet in Brisbane I bought a fabulously, horrific, rubber witch’s mask for myself and a truly gross-looking mask for my husband. I made (sewed) suitable attire to match.  When the masks arrived I immediately put mine on, thinking Ruska, our the ginger cat (Sasha had became Ruska’s mentor) would get a fright.  My mean attempt at humour backfired.  Ruska didn’t twitch a whisker – not even the slightest movement! My ego was deflated in a mere second! Poof!”

Forget all of that…let’s get pickled!

Giardiniera (Pickled Vegetables): Bring 2-1/2 cups white vinegar, 3 cups water, ¾c sugar, 5tbl sea salt, 1tsp mustard seeds and 1/2tsp dried hot chilli flakes to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a 4-quart bowl and cool for 30mins. Then bring about 6 quarts unsalted water to a boil in a large pot. Have at the ready a large bowl of ice and cold water. Add 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets to the pot of boiling water; boil until crisp-tender, transfer using slotted spoon to iced water. Then cook these remaining vegetables in the same manner, allowing 4mins each and 2mins for the celery; 1 red and 1 yellow capsicum, cut into 1-inch pieces, 4 carrots, cut diagonally into 1/2inch thick slices, 4 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch slices, 1c large brine-cured green olives and ½c oil-cured black olives. Drain vegetables in a colander and spread out on 2 large kitchen towels to dry. Add vegetables to pickling liquid. Weight down with a plate to keep them submerged. Chill, covered at least 1 day; the pickled vegetables will keep, chilled and covered for one week.
 
Pickled Garlicky Red Capsicums: Roast 10 capsicums,( mixed colours, if you like), in a pre-heated 205C oven. Line capsicums on a large baking sheet; roast them for 45mins, turning them once or until they’re soft. Once roasted, while they’re hot, throw them into a large bowl, cover with lid or plate, trapping the steam inside. When they have cooled a bit, their skins will be easy to remove. Once the skins are removed, remove the core and seeds and tear the capsicums into strips. Meanwhile you’ve prepared a pickling mix of 3c water, 2/3-3/4c sugar and 1/4c table salt, which you’ve brought to a boil over moderate heat and cooled.  Pour this liquid over the capsicums; add 4 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped. Place into a non-reactive container. Chill; covered for one day. These also will keep a week.

Pumpkin Pickles: Peel and cube pumpkin, making 6 cups. Place in colander; set over boiling water. Don’t let water touch pumpkin. Steam until just tender; drain. Simmer 2 cups each vinegar and sugar and 2 large sticks cinnamon for 15min. Add pumpkin; simmer 3mins. Set aside 24hrs. Heat and simmer 5mins more. Remove cinnamon. Pack boiling hot in hot jars then process in boiling-water bath for 10mins.

Beet Relish: Combine 12 cooked beetroot, 1 red onion, 2 cups finely chopped red cabbage, 1 red capsicum (all put through a food processor with large blade), with 1-1/2tsp salt, 3/4c sugar,1-1/2c vinegar and 2tbls prepared horseradish; bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmering for 15mins, stirring often. Ladle hot relish into hot jars; process in boiling-water bath for 10mins.  
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Tuesday, March 07, 2017

I’M NOT A CELEBRITY....GET ME OUT OF HERE!




After I spent most of Saturday, 25th February preparing and cooking 120 savoury mini-muffins, to be eaten the following day - if I see another muffin it will be too soon!

I’m not sure how or why it is I get invited to parties of whatever description that end up costing me more than it does the hosts!  I think I have a flashing neon light on my forehead that only others can see!

This “garden party” was the 40th wedding anniversary “celebration” of my ex-sister-in-law and her husband (the sister of my second husband, and now ex, but still good mate).  

The husband is a retired barrister; the wife a retired nursing sister.  Both have much more money than I do.

Their home is not far from where I dwell; probably about half a kilometre or thereabouts, give or take. Less as the crow flies. 

However, I when I tried to hitch a ride on one of the crows that – take note of this – that gets regular hand-outs from me - it refused because of the large platters I was taking with me! More particularly, he declined to give me a lift when I refused him a muffin or two!  Unruffled, I packed the goodies in my car and drove myself to the party, instead.

Forty years ago my then husband and I attended his sister’s wedding, the reception of which was held at the top of Brisbane’s Mt. Coot-tha – in the restaurant thereupon.  

My ex and his sister no longer talk. I know and understand the reasons why...and I know whose side I stand on, and it’s not the side of my ex-sister-in-law.  I know a lot she doesn’t know I know.   I keep my own counsel.

My ex wasn’t invited to the garden party.  Lucky him!    My ex-brother-in-law and his wife were invited, but they didn’t attend...lucky them!

Reluctantly, I accepted the invitation (there is always a method, purpose and reason for my bursts of madness...too long and complex to go into in detail. Suffice to say, I find it difficult having to deal with hypocrites and/or pretentious people - and the party the other day had more than its fair share of them!

Between 60 to 80 people attended the garden party.

The invitation said to “bring a plate”.  Until the heat of summer hit with full force I had been doing some de-cluttering, taking what I no longer need or use to the local OP Shops; one is run by the RSPCA and the other by the local Presbyterian Church.  

Seeing I was asked, on the invitation, to bring a plate, I had considered taking along quite a few plates I no longer use, plates that are hijacking space and gathering dust. 

Instead, of course, I did as I was bidden, deciding against playing the fool.

I should’ve gone with my original thought and played the fool.  Instead I was taken for a fool, as were other invited guests, in my opinion.  

Along with the two large platters brimming with mini muffins, I also took with me a bottle of Andrew Peace Rosé.  

I’d not tried this particular Rosé before, but I’m glad I accepted the word of the fellow at the bottle shop because it was a very nice wine.  

Andrew Peace Vineyard and Winery is situated at Piangil, on the banks of the mighty, majestic Murray River, in the Mallee Region of northern Victoria. We are fortunate in this country.  Australia produces a vast array of wonderful wines.

When I was working in the role of Groups-Conventions Manager at the Ramada Reef Resort, at Palm Cove, north of Cairns after I’d left the resort on Hinchinbrook Island I tried to promote Rosé because I believed it to be a perfect wine for our summer months.  I couldn’t understand why Rosé wasn’t more popular back then.  

My personal preference is for gutsy red wines, such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, but during summer, particularly during the daylight hours, Rosé is a perfect match for our long, hot summer days.

For many years the best-known and best-selling Rosé in this country was Mateus Rosé, a wine imported from Portugal.

Fortunately, the “climate”...and tastes have altered over the years.  Australia now produces some excellent Rosé wines, and Aussies are choosing them over the imported ones.

One of the best is Bird in Hand Pinot Rosé....it is magnificent.   

Bird in Hand winery is located near the town of Woodside in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia.  

As far as alcohol goes, I drink very little these days, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a quality wine (or spirits, both of the alcoholic kind and human kind!) when I have it.  

I suppose similar applies all over. I may not have a lot of money, and I live in a rented, humble cabin, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the good things in life, as humble as many of those are, too.

These days I no longer host and cater for dinner or luncheon parties, or for parties of any description.  I stopped doing so a few years ago.
  
However, when I did entertain others in my own abode and surrounds, I never asked, nor did I expect my guests to bring a “plate”. Everyone, or most, brought their own liquor, as is the normal, unspoken practice, but never food.

More fool me regarding the food, I guess, but I enjoyed the planning; the purchasing of the necessary ingredients; the preparation, the creating and the cooking.  I enjoyed being the hostess; I enjoyed presenting the food that I had prepared to my guests.

However, I digress....

I think the party the other day, for me, was the most boring I’ve ever attended.  

People were too spread out, for one thing.  Parties, to get them going off with a swing, need “body heat”.  Meaning - having people spread wide apart over a vast area never works well.  People need to be near people – up close to each other – to have fun.  

The garden party on Sunday, 26th February, as the name denotes, was held outside in the garden...the grounds of which cover about four acres.  Having tables dotted around the grounds, at distances apart from each other, is never going to work well.
  
Party-goers like to be “up close and personal”  Once you have people seated at tables apart in their little groups, that is where they remain for most of the time.

To make matters worse, for me, one of the guests, the best friend of the male host, early in the proceedings, attempted to, in the presence of people, some of whom I didn’t know, or who knew me...tried to start a conversation in which he was going to be derogatory towards my ex-husband, the hostess’ brother!  

Well, I wasn’t going to stand for that (although, I almost did leap to my feet in anger). I will never stand for ignorant comments being made!  And that clown who dared to open his mouth should have known better.  He soon closed it.  Looking him directly in the eye, I put him in his place quick smart, leaving him floundering in his own mess.

I’d met the fellow concerned in the early Seventies.  Our paths have crossed only a handful of times since those days.  

The last time was about seven and a half years ago when I catered for said ex-sister-in-law’s 60th birthday party.
  
Each crossing of our paths has been brief.  But there he was about ready to mimic, to echo thoughts he’d picked up from his best friend, the host of Sunday’s party, and those of my ex-sister-in-law. Some people never learn.   

The host and hostess of the party choose not to have anything to do with her, the hostess' brother, my ex-husband. My ex and I are in regular contact, a few times a week.

My loyalties will always be with my ex-husband, even if there are times and have been times he gives me the shits (he’s aware of this, of course), but I will always have his back.  He’s aware of that, too.  It works both ways.  

I will not sit by and allow another or others spew out stuff about which they have no idea.  It is not their right to do so, nor is it any of their business.  

To make matters worse the other day, that clown was about to offer his “ill-informed insights” about my ex-husband in the presence of strangers...people who don’t know me or my ex – who know absolutely nothing about our lives, together or apart!!

He will never again attempt to do so when in my presence. 

Personally, although I kept it well-hidden, I gained pleasure witnessing the way his mouth dropped open and remained so mid-word, and the way he began to squirm when I retaliated forcefully!   

My prompt response cut him off short. It was not expected by him.  He stayed far away from me after the incident, which pleased me.  At least, he was smart enough to do so. Perhaps he realised he valued his safety much more than he thought he did.

I think he went away to wipe the egg from his face.

People should learn to shut their mouth, and keep it shut when it comes to matters they know nothing about.

I don’t suffer fools easily...I don’t suffer fools at all.

Along with the rests of the guests, I was forced to sit through a self-indulgent “concert” put on by the above idiot who classes himself as the Brisbane equivalent to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice and Steven Sondheim all wrapped up in one!

The first glimpse I had of an escape hatch...I headed for it.   

Politely, I said my farewell to the hosts,  and, relieved, I came home...where I let out a loud sigh!  

There’s no place like home!



Savoury Muffins: Preheat oven to 190°C (170°C fan-forced). Grease muffin pan/s. Cook bacon in heated pan until crisp, drain on absorbent paper, cool. (Or replace bacon with drained sun-dried tomatoes, as I did). Sift 2c self-raising flour and 1 cup plain flour into large bowl. In another bowl, combine bacon/sun-dried tomatoes, 1/3c grated parmesan cheese, 3/4c sliced black olives and Italian herbs;  then add 2 lightly-beaten eggs, 2tbs tomatoe puree,3tsp  sambal oelek, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 3/4c light x-virgin oil and 1-1-1/2c buttermilk (or a combination of milk and sour cream); fold into flours; don’t over-mix.  Spoon mixture into prepared pan; sprinkle with extra herbs and grated cheese.  You can top them with pumpkin/pepita seeds, halved cherry tomatoes or sliced black olives, if you like..

Corn Muffins:   To make buttermilk - in glass jug/bowl, stir 1/2c milk with 1-1/2tsp vinegar; let stand for 5 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together 1c yellow cornmeal (polenta), 1c plain flour, 1/2tsp baking soda, 1/2tsp salt and1/2tsp pepper. In another bowl, whisk together 1x420g can creamed corn, buttermilk, 1/4c light ex-virgin olive oil, 2 eggs and 1/4tsp Sambal Olek; pour over cornmeal mixture. Sprinkle with 1c shredded cheddar and parmesan cheeses, 1/2c frozen corn kernels, thinly sliced chives and 1/4c finely-chopped parsley (and/or fresh spinach leaves); stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.  DON”T over-mix. Spoon into greased muffin pan. Bake in centre of 400°F (200°C) oven until tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on rack. (Make-ahead: Store in airtight container for up to 2 days or wrap individually and freeze in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)